Is Being a Full Time Home Maker More Fulfilling Than Being a Full Time Career Maker?

It is beyond scary for me to even ask this question to myself much less out loud. After a lifetime of supporting all things “women’s rights”, working full time in a career path my entire adult life, I am questioning whether I made a huge mistake. After 11 years of marriage, an unexpected divorce completely unhinged me. Instead of asking for alimony and child support, I latched on to the idea of women’s liberation and the belief that the expectation for me, a well educated modern woman, was to continue to work full time and put my daughter into daycare.

Without questioning my future path, I jumped in with both feet to tackle the art of single parenthood and full time working.

Let’s analyze this. The whole women’s liberation movement was just taking root. The role of men and women were clearly defined up until now. The wife was in charge of the home and children while the husband was the breadwinner. The garage was the only part of the house that was ever claimed by the husband. The day started early, with the woman making breakfast for the family and getting the children dressed and ready for school. The husband went off to work fully rested, ready to do a full days work. The employer benefited from an employee who was well fed, well rested with little on his mind except to concentrate on doing his job. The wifes duties included buying groceries at the best price, using every coupon available to save the most money and cook simple nutritious meals for the family.

As long as there are 2 people rowing the boat in the same direction, all is well. However, when both roles of husband and wife melt into one person, it is reasonable to conclude “double duty” takes its toll on everyone involved. There is literally not enough time to do it all.

30 years ago when you hired an employee, usually a man, his wife stayed home and took care of the house and children. The man worked a full 40 hour work week. He showed up a mandatory minimum of at least 5 minutes prior to punching in in a time clock. He was expected to be at his work station ready to work when the bell rang. He was given lunch and breaks to take care of any personal business as needed. He was expected to remain at his work station, working, until the bell rang. If he was late, he was reprimanded and his paycheck was deducted in 15 minute intervals, a message that tardiness was not OK. This man got home from work 20 minutes after he left work, to find his wife just putting dinner on the table. After dinner the wife cleaned up the kitchen while the husband took a shower, relaxed or watched TV. There was no expectation that he was supposed to help his wife with dishes, house cleaning, childcare or anything else. He did his work for the day. After dishes and kitchen clean up, the wife retired to the living room to help the children with any homework not already finished when they came home from school shortly after 3 pm. Children go to bed at 8pm, get a short story or two by mom, maybe dad and off to bed for the night. Husband and wife have until 10 pm to relax and watch TV, going to sleep early enough to get a full 8 hours sleep to be ready for the next day. The biggest stressor was if the price of gasoline went up 1cent a gallon.

Fast forward to today… The employee arrives at work 30 minutes late because he had to drop the kids off at school. He had no time for breakfast so he grabs a cup of coffee and yawns as he explains he was up most of the night because his son had the flu and his wife got called in to work for a second shift. The employer is just grateful he showed up at all. He gets interrupted several times throughout the work day as he answers his cell phone frequently, handling calls from the school about his son who brought a gun to school, the dentist about his daughter’s missed appointment, his wife saying she would be home an hour late asking him to pick up some groceries on his way home from work. The employee has less than 50% focus on what he is supposed to be doing on the job, makes several costly mistakes and hides them at his work station knowing his boss will be really mad since this has happened several times before. The employer is not getting his money’s worth. The employee is physical exhausted, mentally drained and lacks confidence in his ability to handle all this stress. When he arrives home with groceries in tow, he is greeted with a sink full of dirty dishes and a note from his wife reminding him she will be home late, so he will have to make something to eat for dinner.

There is hidden resentment on all fronts that women are a force to be reckoned with in the workplace. Male co-workers don’t relish being given orders from a female supervisor. Female co-workers are often jealous of their female supervisor, wanting to believe that they should have her position. The husband of the woman supervisor resents the fact that she makes more money than he does and that he has had to assume so many of the housekeeping chores because she is so busy at work. The woman supervisor resents the fact that she must work and deal with a husband and children leaving virtually no time for herself.

Where is the justice in all this? Who is the beneficiary of all this? Were we happier when we were full time home makers than we are now as full time career makers?